Photo Challenge: Community

When I think of community, I think of a group of people sharing joys, fears, sorrows and adventures. So, I immediately thought of my hiking group. We called ourselves “The Hopeful Hikers” and had a ton of outdoor adventures together. We climbed mountains, trekked through the snow and occasionally drank champagne together too. As our escapades continued, we quickly turned into a family with deep bonds and endless love for each other.

Sadly, three members of the group have moved away. Two to Australia and one to Germany but I will always cherish my years of 5 am alarms and four, five, six of us piling into a vehicle and heading to the mountains. I feel so lucky to have spent so much time with such beautiful, strong and wonderfully complex women.


A Strong Woman
is one who feels deeply and loves fiercly.
Her tears flow as abundantly as her laughter.
She is both soft and powerful, is both practical and spiritual.
In her essence, a Strong Woman is a gift to the world….


Sweet Apple Chutney

An apple chutney recipe could be a really lovely, home-made Christmas present. And, an added bonus, while the chutney is cooking, your entire home will smell like Christmas.


Sweet Apple Chutney

2 large tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raisins

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.  Uncover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes more to cook off excess liquid; let cool.  Pour into clean, dry mason jars and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes approximately two cups.

chutneyAnd, as simple as that, you have a beautiful, made-with-love chutney for your next dinner party. Or wrap a big, velvet bow around it and it’s a yummy, home-made x-mas present.

Photo Challenge: Grand

The first time I saw the ocean seastacks of the Oregon coast, my jaw dropped. These magnificent seastacks are my interpretation of grand.



Steve #5

Walking along Georgia to Granville Street, lost in my thoughts, I suddenly heard a loud “Ho, ho, ho”. I turned and looked in the direction Santa’s voice was coming from and this is what I saw:

Ugly Christmas Sweaters? I immediately perked up. I love ugly Christmas sweaters. I ran across the street to get a closer look. So many ugly, ugly sweaters in one place. It was fabulous! I bee-lined over to Steve. Dressed in his Santa suit, he looked like he was the one in charge. “Is this for real?” I asked. “Yep. I’m selling really ugly sweaters until Christmas day” was Steve’s reply. I smiled. Usually Christmas marketing gets on my nerves but this was awesome.

I asked Steve if he liked his job. “Are you kidding? It’s the best. I make people laugh all day long!”


Merry Christmas Steve. You rock. Thank you for being my fifth stranger.

A Perfect Stranger

Weekly Writing Challenge: Instead of giving in to the urge to take a picture, write down your impressions of the scene. Who’s around? What sounds do you hear? What emotions are you experiencing?

I’ve been pretty obsessed with the 100 Strangers Project the past few weeks. Approaching interesting strangers on the street, asking to photograph them, and finding out a little bit about them in the process has pushed me out of my comfort zone in a really amazing way. Capturing the one shot, that you hope is the perfect representation of the stranger you have chosen, has been an exciting, sometimes frustrating and occasionally exhilarating experience.

So when I read this week’s writing challenge, I thought “hmmm, this is the exact opposite of what I’m into”. As I read further though, I thought of one stranger I saw on the bus last week. A missed opportunity I had thought at the time, but now, I’m thinking that maybe she is the perfect stranger to write about, instead of trying to photograph.

It was a rainy, dreary, Monday evening with commuters bundled up in dripping wet jackets, hoods pulled low and awkward umbrellas everywhere. As I surveyed the surly faces around me, almost everyone looked like they were in a dark, dreary mood to match the weather. I hopped on the bus and stood, wedged between two people, in the usual 5pm sardine can style when I noticed a woman wearing a pink, fuzzy hat and really big wire rimmed glasses, sitting in front of me. There was something about her. A sweetness and an innocence that made me stare and think, wow, I would love to photograph her.

Then, suddenly, she spoke. She was looking for the Davie Street stop and the bus was so jam packed that she couldn’t see where she was. As she spoke, it became obvious that her hearing was very impaired. I answered her that Davie Street was three stops away by smiling and holding up three fingers. She smiled and talked about how busy the bus was and how she had been shopping downtown and lost track of the time so ended up trying to get home in rush hour. She was so open, friendly and expecting everyone else to be friendly that I was a little mesmerized with her. A ray of sunshine on a gloomy bus ride home. I took out one of my cards and wrote, I am part of the flickr 100 strangers project. Can I take your photograph? I had my card in my hand, ready to give it to her when she stood up and turned away from me as she struggled to exit the crowded bus. I thought of tapping her on the shoulder but was too shy. I watched her as she stepped off the bus and headed to Davie Street, smiling at people she passed on the way. A big missed opportunity, I thought.

But now, looking back, so much about her was intangible and probably couldn’t have been recorded by my camera. She made me think about how many frowning or blank faces surrounded me on the bus. Yet this woman who probably had way more challenges in life than the rest of us put together, was smiling and chatting on a packed, humid bus, full of dour, dripping wet commuters. And why aren’t more of us chatting with each other I thought? We stand, side by side, staring out the window with our headphones or sunglasses on, doing our best to prevent any interaction with our fellow human beings. I was really grateful that this wonderful stranger, with her pink hat and amazing attitude ended up sitting in front of me on the bus.

This life, I believe, is pretty much all about attitude. If we heal our wounds as much as we can, be kind to ourselves and start every day expecting the best, I bet we’ll get it.

That’s what my perfect stranger taught me in just those few minutes standing beside her on the bus.

I doubt my camera could have done her justice.

Black Friday

fight club

Well, it looks like this year there’s only been one stabbing in a Walmart parking lot and one shooting over an on-sale tv in Las Vegas. A pretty stellar year for the feeding frenzy called Black Friday.

Now, it’s not that I never shop. It’s just not one of my preferred ways to spend my time. But I am familiar with the fleeting thrill of finding just the right piece to perk up your wardrobe or decorate your home. Black Friday, however, is a whole other world. A holiday that was traditionally about reflecting, feeling grateful and spending time with friends and family has turned into an exercise in excessive mass consumption and random violence.

And just how did shopping become the most important activity in our society? I mean, when you think about it, how sad. Out of all of the things we could value: the arts, giving back, community, shopping somehow has become our most talked about, celebrated and advertised thing to do? So, of course, if getting the lowest price so you can buy more and more stuff to fill your home with is the most important thing to you and you’re feeling a little competitive, then why wouldn’t you stab some guy who’s threatening your once-a-year deal? Right? Sigh…

The thing that bothers me the very most about Black Friday is that is has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with Canada. It’s not our Thanksgiving. We never used to have Black Friday sales until the past few years. Why does it seem that we only adopt the absolute worst of America?

Big Mac anyone?

My biggest hope for North America is that by next year we realize that true happiness comes from connection with friends and family. Sharing food, sharing laughs and sharing troubles. Not from pushing people out of the way at your suburban big box store so you can drain your bank account and stuff your house with more junk that will never, ever improve your life the way you hope it will.

Happy American Thanksgiving.

b fri

Claudia & Taya #4

Walking back to work, I decided to take a short cut across the Art Gallery lawn and as I turned the corner I saw a beautiful woman sitting on the gallery steps, sipping a Starbucks. She was in full make-up with a perfect topknot and wearing a gorgeous, ivory wedding dress. What? I looked over and saw another woman, fiddling with her camera, getting ready to photograph her. A fashion shoot and I didn’t have my Nikon with me. Arggghh!

photo (2)

I walked away, thinking they would have been amazing strangers to photograph and I’m going to have to start carrying one of my cameras with me every single day for the rest of my life. Then I thought, hey, I have my iphone, that’s better than nothing. So I approached Taya and Claudia with my card and asked if I could take their photos. Yes, I could.

I asked Claudia what was the best thing about being a model and she said “ a tie between being pampered and seeing the final photographs.” I asked her what the worst thing was and she said “Shoes. Definitely shoes. Walking down the runway in shoes that are one size too small or two sizes too big is a nightmare. ”

Okay, the shoe thing sounds annoying but, still, there is something so magical and dreamy about the fashion industry. Like stumbling upon a princess in a stunning gown of silk and tulle, sipping a Starbucks and lounging on the art gallery steps, on a Tuesday afternoon.

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world. – Marilyn Monroe

Thank you Claudia and Taya for being my fourth strangers.